Saturday, February 22, 2014

The same, but different

It’s not news that the French are ardent protectors of the French language. L’Académie Française, one of the defending entities, was established in 1634 with a mission " work with all the care and all possible diligence to give certain rules to our language and make it pure, eloquent and capable of handling the arts and sciences." The Academy sets up the rules governing dictionary entries, grammar, literature and poetry as well as staunchly, in some cases controversially, preventing English words from entering the vocabulary. For example, in 1990 brainstorming became remue-ménages (literally translating to stir the brain membrane) and in 2011, hashtag became mot-dièse (literally meaning hash symbol word.)

This is totally reasonable given French is a pretty darn hard language to master and there are only 40 members (of 65 million French residents) in L’Académie Française. If I was an expert of French linguistics, grammar, literature and etymology, I, too, would do everything in my power to preserve the language out of fear of getting fired for letting another English word slip into the French lexicon. What an embarrassment that would be!

In relatively recent years, it seems there have been some slackers in L’Academie since a few English words have become commonplace in France, albeit with a slightly different meaning.

Here are the terms and their French meanings:

Parking (noun, masc.): Parking Lot. Because it’s a word often used, I’ll admit to sometimes saying it in English. Is there a parking?

Speed (adj): Someone who is energetic or hyper; to be rushed or stressed.

Mail (noun, masc.): An email. Technically there is a French word created by L’Académie Française –courrier électronique- but it’s not often used.

Playback (noun, masc.): Lip Syncing. This one really threw me off the first few times I heard it. To me, it sounds less Britney Spears and more ESPN.

Camping (noun, masc.): A campsite or campground. Forget rustic weekends in the great outdoors, campings in France are something to experience. Just watch the aptly-titled film ‘Camping’ and you’ll get it.

Fashion (adj): Fashionable, trendy. When my adorable niece Victoria was between 3-8 years old, everything she deemed cute or cool was ‘so fashion.’ I think of this everytime it comes from a French person.

People (adj. or noun, masc.): famous, trendy; celebrity. Can be used in singular or plural form. Real magazine headline “Le président de la République est-il un people comme les autres?= Is the President of the Republic a celebrity like the others?’  Another headline “Tout les actualités people” = All the celebrity news.
Babyfoot (noun, masc.): Foosball. I’m guessing it’s football for babies, its cuteness has won me over.
Jean (noun, masc.): Jeans. It’s singular in French.
Has-been (adj): In French it’s used like this, ‘He’s so has-been.’
Pressing (noun, masc.): Dry Cleaners; the dry cleaning.
Talkie-Walkie (noun, masc.): Walkie-Talkie. Confusing for me and increasingly harder to remember which is used in English, and which in French.
Tube (noun, masc.): Hit song. Maybe someone wanted to say ‘tune’ but had a cold, and it just spread like wildfire thereafter.
Week-end (noun, masc.): Weekend. This is one that traverses all languages.

1 comment:

  1. This is freaking awesome....and could only come from an American living in France.
    Thanks for sharing!